For AP, Being Shot by a Cop Makes You a Suspect

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For AP, Being Shot by a Cop Makes You a Suspect

A demonstrator in Baltimore, Maryland holds a sign during the protests which followed the police killing of Freddie Gray. (Photo: Arash Azizzada/cc/flickr)

I often think the clearest glimpse into a media outlet’s view of an issue comes not in the articles that directly engage it, but in the little throwaway descriptions—the shorthand used to sum up the story.

Take a look, then, at this AP wire report (6/8/15), in which an account of a brutal policing incident at a Texas pool offered this by way of background:

Incidents involving white law enforcement and black suspects have raised concerns across the US, in particular since last August when a white police officer fatally shot a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, fueling sometimes violent protests and a nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement.

No, the “incidents” raising concerns have not involved black “suspects.”  Freddie Gray was not a suspect, nor Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice and John Crawford held toy guns, and Ferguson  officers evidently “suspected” Michael Brown of nothing more than not walking on the sidewalk. A number of those killed have been “suspected” of being mentally ill and in need of help.

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As a matter of fact, the presumption by law enforcement—and media—that any black person involved in an altercation with police must be a criminal suspect is part of the outrage driving public protest.

Telling, too, that in its description of police killings in the news over the last several months—including one officer who went free after leaping on top of the car of two unarmed black people and firing dozens of bullets into them, and another who saw all charges dropped for a putting a bullet through the head of a 7-year-old girl sleeping on her living room sofa—the only thing AP sees fit to describe as  “violent” are the protests.

Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra!and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press).

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